Is a layer just a cutting?

Bill S

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I decided to ask this question after reading a thread about layering a beech.

Often someone will ask the question regarding should I do a layer, and often the answer is no you are wasting a years time on the real tree(considering the bottom is what is being kept for sure), unless it has really good features.

My question is this, if you do a layer by the ring bark method is the top still part of the original trees system? If you do the ring bark method do you really need to stop working on the rest of the tree?

I can see if you use the wire binding method that the layered part might still be drawing from the parent, but when you cut thru the cambium down to wood, to me it;s a growing tree, and a cutting you are trying to root?

What say you all?????
 

Rick Moquin

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I decided to ask this question after reading a thread about layering a beech.

Often someone will ask the question regarding should I do a layer, and often the answer is no you are wasting a years time on the real tree(considering the bottom is what is being kept for sure), unless it has really good features.
An air layer has many facets, one of which is to save the top (if usable) of a given tree. Basically, an air layer is performed vice a chop in many instances. What this does is give you 2 trees if successful. If not one ugly tree. If not, then you need to repeat the air layer (wasted a year sometimes more). A chop on the other hand is often recommended when the top is totally useless. This in turn gains a year. Why? Because all work should stop on a tree when it is being layered, while on the other hand, the tree after the chop is allowed to grow same as with a layer separation. It all depends what you want or what you are after.

Sometimes the donor tree (landscape) has a unique feature that would lend itself well to bonsai. When you layer it, you gain many years. You will not normally be conducting work on the donor during this time frame anyway, and thus is a moot point.

Some times folks do a layer to correct an inproper trunk or to gain a decent nebari. In this case all stops for a year in order to achieve the end. The argument is, what are you after? Ten years correcting nebari or 1 year air layering towards greater nebari.

Bonsai takes time, there exist several short cuts, you need to decide what the best shortcut is given any situation.
 

grog

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I believe the portion being layered off the tree is still drawing nutrients from the base so it's not much like a cutting at all. If I understand correctly the tree will still be sending nutrients to the section being removed but the removal of the bark will halt the flow of food from the upper section back to the roots thus stimulating formation of new roots. That's an extreme dumbing down of the process as I grasp it but I'm not much into biology so that's good enough for me.

If the base of the tree is the only part you are interested in then I don't see the point of doing a layer, chop away. If you want to save the base and part being removed then I would imagine working on the base would stress both the donor and part being layered as the tree is already providing nutrients to an area which it isn't getting any in return.
 

Bonsai Nut

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Often someone will ask the question regarding should I do a layer, and often the answer is no you are wasting a years time on the real tree(considering the bottom is what is being kept for sure), unless it has really good features.
I may be misreading your post, but you only do an air-layer when you want the TOP of the tree. Otherwise, if you wanted the bottom portion and didn't care about the top, you would just chop the tree in half and discard the top portion.

For many air-layers, people work to maintain the lower portion of the tree and end up with two bonsai. For some trees this is not possible. For example, I have a nice 20-year cork bark black pine that has a nice upper portion but is too long from nebari to first branch. In this case, a successful air-layer would leave me with a nice bonsai, but the lower trunk section would have to be discarded because it would not be viable without any branches.
 

Bill S

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Thanks guys, guess I will have to dig out the old Botany book from the school days. I guess I was thinking that with the cambium removed the "layered" section was working away at photosysnthisis and found no place to send the sugars so they would produce roots as an independant plant. If this would be the case then the only positive I saw for doing a layer vs. cutting is that the layer would be steadfast because it was still attached, and not trying to wiggle tender new roots, the negative side would be it was in the way of the tree design. But if the top sectioned being layered is still drawing from the existing root system then I understand the need to leave the "bottom " alone untill you have the roots to do a separation.
 

Bonsai Nut

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If this would be the case then the only positive I saw for doing a layer vs. cutting is that the layer would be steadfast because it was still attached
You can't do a cutting out of adult material on most trees. For example, you can't cut the top off a black pine (with a 2" trunk), stick it in soil, and expect that it will root (even with misters, rooting hormone, etc). Am I misunderstanding you? Cuttings can typically only be done with very young (and small) material and even then success rates vary by species and you often need special setups.
 

Bill S

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I just wasn't thinking along the lines that more than just the cambium is supporting the respiration systems of the tree. I was a bit stuck on the thought that with the cambium removed it was totally on it's own.
 

Ross

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I think I understand your question, and have been wondering the same thing. From Brent's article it seems that the difference between a layer and a cutting is that a good layer will leave the xylem and secondary xylem which allows nutrients from the roots to still reach the portion above the layer, where a cutting severs everything, cutting off the nutrient supply from the roots.
 
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